S. Korea proposes new talks with N. Korea on joint zone

South Korea on Thursday proposed fresh talks with North Korea aimed at re-opening a shuttered joint industrial zone at Kaesong, a government spokesman said.

The Unification Ministry sent a message to the North Korean government proposing that three officials from each side meet at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Saturday, Spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok said.

The proposal came a day after North Korea restored a cross-border hotline and announced it would let the South's businessmen and managers visit the zone to check on mothballed facilities.

The Kaesong estate, where North Koreans work in Seoul-owned factories, was the most high-profile casualty of the months of elevated tensions that followed the North's nuclear test in February.

Operations at the Seoul-invested industrial estate in the North came to a halt after Pyongyang banned entry by the South's factory managers and other officials and pulled all North Korean workers out in April.

North Korea turned a deaf ear to a South Korea proposal for talks between government officials to discuss the reopening of the zone.

As tensions began easing last month, however, the North restored the hotline and suggested a high-level meeting to discuss not only Kaesong but other suspended inter-Korean economic and social exchanges.

But plans for the talks collapsed due to disputes over protocol and the hotline was switched off again.